Wickr, known for its eponymous ephemeral messaging app, is headed for major changes this morning.
The company is splitting in two halves: a foundation devoted to helping activists around the world and an enterprise-focused company. Founder Nico Sell will head up the foundation, and Mark Fields, former head of strategic investment at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange group, will come on as CEO of Wickr the company.
Going forward, Wickr as a company will take the technology it used to build a secure consumer messaging app and transform it into a tool for financial institutions and enterprises. The company will continue to operate the consumer app as well. The Wickr app uses Perfect Forward Secrecy to secure messages as they travel from device to device and Wickr doesn’t store message content on its servers, making it especially secure. In an enterprise setting, Wickr will be used to secure everything from video conferences to email to phone conversations. The company is also working with companies to develop secure communications between businesses and between businesses and consumers.
Sell had been planning on shifting the focus of the company from the consumer app towards licensing its technology to enterprises, but the timing had been uncertain. With the rash of attacks on retailers and banks last year, Sell is moving forward at an opportune time.
“Sony is the biggest blackout out there these days,” said Fields, referring to the cyber attack on Sony that saw hundreds of internal emails and documents leaked and led to the firing of CEO Amy Pascal. The incident hit home for many U.S. businesses, and now many are on the hunt for the right cocktail of security technologies to keep their operations secure.
Wickr won’t just be creating individual communication apps for companies. Fields said they will be creating a network of apps to facilitate communication inside the business and outside.
Meanwhile, Sell will be running the Wickr Foundation, an entity focused on working with human rights activists on lobbying for freedom of speech and on developing tools that can help the spread of information in areas where media is tightly controlled by the government.
“We’ll be training human rights activists and talking to them about other tools and tricks they need in their arsenal,” said Sell.
The founder has a background working with hacktivists through DefCon for 15 years. She also has her own organization called R00tz Asylum, which teaches kids how to perform some basic hacks (like picking locks and eavesdropping on cell phone conversations), in part to raise awareness about how vulnerable personal information is on the web.